By: Esther Stern | Opinions  | 

The Ethics from in Between

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”  -Mark Twain

There is definitely what to learn both inside and outside of the confines of the Yeshiva University school buildings. Inside, we have the traditional classroom setting. As for outside, why, just walking the streets of Manhattan can be a lecture in whatever the heart desires. There is much to quench any thirst for knowledge; the street art can itself serve as an instructor with its power to speak thousands of words on politics and public opinion. These out-of-building learning opportunities are instrumental in helping build a larger and clearer lens through which to see the world. There is, however, a third domain for learning at YU, one nary spoken about — it is the place in between. Security desks, cafeteria cash registers and driver’s seats on the shuttles are teacher podia in disguise. Those who occupy those spots, security guards, cashiers and shuttle divers are our proto-teachers and auditing their lectures have taught me a great deal.

One of these teachers reminded me that I should not take my father for granted, that I should appreciate him more. Another went to great lengths to explain the importance of gratitude, and what a privilege it is to be able to help others. In a specifically meaningful exchange, I learned how important it is to let others know that you care about them. One proto-teacher, rather unapologetically, told me to never apologize for saying how I really feel, and, on a separate occasion, reminded me that it’s important for people to allow themselves to have a good time.

Some lessons were more implicit in nature, only able to be picked up if I paid attention. I saw that a smile can transform someone’s day. I observed the impact made on students when they are spoken to in their native tongue, when they were given a break from struggling through language barriers. Although these teachers did not mark me on an attendance sheet, they knew that I was present.

There is a world behind each person. I encourage my fellow students, and all those who love to learn, to audit a class from a proto-teacher from time to time. Everyone has a lesson to share, and many are eager to share it with you.

Photo Caption: Security desks, cafeteria cash registers and driver’s seats on the shuttles are teacher podia in disguise.